Outside the air hung heavy with summer heat, but inside the pub, the vodka and sodas flowed icy and endless. The sticky Irish bar served as the epicenter of my stalking activities, and now I sat grinning and buzzed, perched at a table with Mike (A.K.A: my prey and future husband) and another couple. Basic math made me giddy.
1 couple + Mike + Me = Two Couples
Everyone in the bar could see what Mike had not yet grasped. He and I were a couple. The faster the blue-eyed fool admitted it, the faster I could stop planning to “accidentally” show up wherever he roamed and get on with the business of taking his presence for granted for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, the girlfriend he’d broken up with months earlier was embroiled in a family health crisis, and had begged him to linger and help her cope. Well played. I couldn’t even point out what an obvious ploy it was without sounding like a monster. Our budding romance was left on idle, meted out in stolen moments and wistful glances.
The bartender barked last call. The four of us stepped outside into a wall of humidity, almost comforting after the dry chill of the air conditioning. We proceeded in that aimless way people do right before someone says “Well, I guess I better get home.” I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted keep Mike near as long as possible.
Jack, the man making one half of the other adorable couple, offhandedly mentioned something about boats.
“Want to go out on my boat?” said a high, desperate voice I didn’t recognize.
Who said that?
Eyes trained on me.
I’d said that.
My father kept a 17 foot Parker, a center console Boston Whaler-type boat at a nearby marina. He had told me where the keys were and how to operate it, but I don’t think Dad had in mind me tooling around the Chesapeake Bay at 2AM with a boat full of drunks, no matter how crucial the move might be to my stalking operation.
“Boat sounds perfect!” said Jack.
“Absolutely!” said Kim.
“I guess…” said my darling Mike, pathologically unable to fully commit to anything.
Our weaving path altered to point in the general direction of the marina. I practiced the speech where I explained to my father why every boat near ours had a streak of paint the color of our little Parker on it, while the Parker itself had been stripped bare. The last time I’d driven the damn thing the wind had pushed me into another boat’s propeller, rubbing off part of the “P” and leaving the logo on one side announcing the Parker had been demoted to “Farker.” I’d been stone sober then.
Arriving at the dock, we piled into the boat and, old salt that I was, I lowered the engine. We pulled out of the slip and putt-putted out to the wide Severn River where a cross-eyed Lhasa Apso could man the helm and be in no danger of hitting anything. I cut the engine and we bobbed in the dark water, conversations from the bar picking up where they left off beneath a bright summer moon.
Ten minutes after positioning ourselves in the center of the river, Kim announced she was hot in a breathy, dramatic voice usually reserved for soap queens and porn stars. A mischievous grin crept across her face. I didn’t know her that well, but at that moment I remembered being told she was a card-carrying nut-job.
Kim spun away from the group and took off her shirt. Bra snapped open and dropped. Skirt shimmied down. She took a step up on the side of the boat and gracefully dove into the water.
“I did not see that coming,” I said.
“I did,” mumbled Jack, lighting a cigarette.
The boys seemed oblivious. Jack had already seen Kim in every possible state of undress. Years of practice had taught Mike never to paid attention to another guy’s girl, particularly when she was doing her damnedest to make you notice she was naked.
“Come in!” Kim called motioning to me from the water.
I took a moment to consider my level of intoxication and found it not lacking. I had never been a skinny-dipping-in-the-middle-of-the-house-lined-river-at-2am type before, but then again, I hadn’t been in the position. And if circling Mike like a moon had not yet convinced him of my adoration, maybe nudity would.
I slipped out of my summer dress and into the water.
Kim and I tread water by the side of the boat, clothed by the dark water. The boys ignored us, other than to politely decline our invitations to join.
We were just getting ready to climb back in the boat, when the water began to glow with an eerie purple iridescence. For the first time, I understood why people in alien movies freeze when beautiful, but ultimately deadly, eerie lights appear. They’re pretty.
Even the aloof males in the boat noticed our ethereal glow. The movement of our legs made the lights brighter, and we guessed the the ghostly spectacle to be the work of tiny iridescent shrimp. I was half enthralled by the natural wonder, half annoyed it took glowing crustaceans to make the jackasses in the boat notice two naked girls.
When the novelty finally faded, Kim and I climbed back into the boat and dressed. I moved to the helm and Mike took the seat beside me. Jack joined Kim in the back. The moonlight on the water glistened around us, nearly as beautiful as the ethereal purple shrimp. I looked at Mike, and found him staring at me. I felt my face grow hot.
“That was sort of magical,” I mumbled, fluffing my wet hair with my hand.
Mike snorted a laugh. He looked away shyly, but I could see he was grinning.
Well he’d committed to a smile, I thought. All it took was two naked girls and magical shrimp.
This should be easy.